The Music Academy’s vocal fellows were in the mood to have fun on Thursday, as were the more than 500 patrons who turned out for the Music Academy of the West’s (MAW) signature Cabaret gala. After the Academy Brass Ensemble provided a fanfare and MAW president Scott Reed welcomed the guests, the singers took the stage with music director Gerald Sternbach at the piano in a set that looked like a glamorous nightclub.
Tenor Jonathan MacArthur cast a spell with his brilliantly focused rendition of “Non, je ne regrette rien,” and soprano Julie Adams followed him with a fun and flirtatious “If I Were a Bell.” Mingjie Lei sang a gorgeous ballad in Chinese with a remarkably appropriate title — “View of the Ocean.” Other highlights of the first half included a sparkling violin duet on some themes from West Side Story and some funny and highly animated ensemble work from Emily Siar and the rest of the women on another song from that show, “I Feel Pretty.”
Frank Goss did an outstanding job as the event’s auctioneer during a break in the music, and when the singers came back, they brought their best stuff with them. Emma McNairy’s “A Bird in a Gilded Cage” was hot, hot, hot, as was the coffee in Quinto Ott’s “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup.” John Kapusta showed off the night’s most impressive acting in his rendition of Stephen Sondheim’s madcap “Buddy’s Blues,” and Diana Newman broke our hearts with a delicate and nuanced “Both Sides Now.” Two of the very best numbers were delivered in Italian — Claire de Sévigné’s ravishing “Il bacio” and J. Warren Mitchell’s “O sole mio.” This was a perfect celebration for an August night on the beach.